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Review & Outlook - 08/04/2001

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Armenian News Network / Groong
August 4, 2001

By Groong Research & Analysis Group

GROONG:	  How were you approached to join the committee? Who
approached you? What were the criteria for your selection?

JOINT ANSWER:	All four of the Armenian members of the Commission
came together on this issue as a result of a number of conversations
and knowledge of one another's background and work over the years. The
two of us have known each other since 1991 when Van went to Moscow as
a member of the U.S. delegation to the Conference on Security and
Cooperation in Europe meetings.  With Raffi Hovannisian, who was in
Moscow as a representative of the Assembly, the Assembly organized
parallel NGO programs on Nagorno Karabagh and also arranged for
congressional observers to travel to Armenia for the referendum on
independence.  When the idea for a Reconciliation Commission began to
take form, we came together.

We established the following minimum criteria for selecting Armenian
 * must have significant international and national political experience;
 * must be fluent in English;
 * must be willing to work as part of a team.

Q:	We've read that the imbalance of four Armenians and six Turks
will be mitigated in the future.  Why did we end up with four
Armenians and six Turks to start with?

JA:	We began with three or four on each side.  We may well
increase to six Armenians or some other number. The process is
explicitly intended to be flexible. But the most important criterion
is that all participants have the ability to work well together. The
chemistry and productivity of the current team have been highly

Q:	Who else was approached to join, outside of the current
commission members? Why are there no Armenians from Western Europe,
South America or the Middle East on the commission?

JA:	We are open to including those who fit within the Commission's
criteria.  We certainly recognize that we need to include others and
intend to do so.  It is also important to point out that we do not
pretend to speak for all Armenians.  We hope to make recommendations.
We intend to engage in activities promoting reconciliation and to be
judged as Commission members on what we produce.  We encourage others
to engage in similar activities.

Q:	 Ozdem Sanberk is quoted as saying: "The intent is not to find
what the truth is, but it is to open new horizons for the future and
enhance mutual understanding."

Ilter Turkmen is quoted as saying: "The commission's task is not to
come to a historical judgement."

Gunduz Aktan is quoted as saying: "When it comes to qualifying events
85 years ago in the Ottoman, Empire, Turks around the table will not
accept them as genocide."

With only Turkish hard-liners and Armenian moderates on the
Commission, one can see why Armenians feel uncomfortable about which
way matters could be "reconciled."  Why were Turkish scholars and
dialogue advocates such as Akcam, Zarakolu and Berktay left out of the
commission?  Why is the Turkish side of the Commission full of only
hard-liners who have career-long histories of denying the Armenian

JA:	All three statements come from top diplomats and each is
distinguishable. We all agree that this Commission is not focused on
determining whether or not there was a Genocide. The international
community and we already take that as a non-negotiable fact, and this
fact is the basis for our discussions. How this Commission deals with
it and what individual Commissioners say in their personal capacities
are two different questions.

We disagree with your premise that the Turkish side is full of only
hard-liners.  We note that we did not play a role in their selection
and vice versa. However, we all believe the Turkish Commissioners
deserve respect for joining this endeavor, which is not without risk.

Q:	The concerted effort of the advocacy groups in Washington has
yielded powerful advances in the 90s, and should not be slowed down or
abandoned until our goals are achieved. If Turks observe that
Armenians relaxed just because a commission has been created, then
commission and talk is all we will get.  If we continue with the
drive, then they will realize that the commission must achieve results
- or they may face defeat.  During conflicts, some of the fiercest
battles continue on the field while peace talks are being held, in
order to maneuver for maximal negotiating power.  Does the Assembly
plan to continue with the full-court press in Washington, to drive
towards U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide?

VAN KRIKORIAN:	We disagree with your analysis and with your use of
the term "recognition" for the United States.  We use the term
"reaffirmation" because as indicated in official government archives,
the U.S. has recognized the Armenian Genocide in the past.  The
Assembly is and will continue to be the leading proponent of the issue
in the U.S. and I can say categorically and proudly that in this
regard, the Assembly's record is unsurpassed.

Q:	We are informed that for various reasons, the Assembly is
planning to take a break from the active pursuit of the recognition of
the Armenian Genocide by the U.S. government. Is this true, and if so,
what are the reasons for it? Will the Assembly continue the aggressive
pursuit of the passage of bills to recognize the Armenian Genocide?

VK:	Thankfully, most Armenians recognize nonsense when they hear
it, and view the allegations used in your premise as such. Your
information is false and we would appreciate learning its source. The
Assembly continues to be more active than any other organization in
pursuit of the reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide by the
U.S. Government.  President Bush's April 24th statement this year,
while omitting the term "Genocide," was a textbook definition of
Genocide and clearly surpassed in many ways what President Clinton
said during the previous eight years.  It is no small victory and is
an example of the Assembly's practice of working aggressively but
quietly and professionally.  In so doing, the Assembly has established
its well-earned reputation in Washington - among leaders on Capitol
Hill, the White House and the Administration, as well as with think
tank experts and professional journalists - as a skilled, tenacious
and authoritative advocate. We publish our goals and our results.  In
addition, the work of the Armenian National Institute and the Armenian
Genocide Museum and Memorial project, two blocks from the White House,
are massive and speak volumes about our commitment.

Q:	So then, there is no truth to the statements that the Assembly
approached Congressman Radanovich to request that he not re-introduce
H. Res. 596 this year?

VK:	No, the Assembly did not approach Congressman Radanovich with
the request that not he reintroduce H. Res. 596 this year. The
Assembly and related organizations are implementing our broad-based
genocide reaffirmation strategy. Until the TARC was announced, the ANC
was in agreement with our congressional strategy.

Q:	In 1991 and 1992, you had business dealings with Turkey to
develop a port in the city of Trebizond, but these plans were derailed
because Turkey demanded that in exchange for access to this port,
Armenians stop demanding recognition for the Genocide.  Do you, or
other Assembly leaders, currently have such business dealings with
Turks or Turkey?  As leaders of the Armenian community of America, are
you willing to make public your financial and business dealings, to
assure the community that there are no conflicts of interest?

VK:	Let me answer the second part first.  I'm attaching a copy of
the Assembly's Conflict of Interest Policy that was in effect before I
became chairman and that addresses your concern.  I can report that I
am in compliance with it. Neither I, nor my family has financial or
business dealings with Turks or Turkey.  My primary source of income
is as a partner in the law firm of Vedder Price. I am willing to let
you examine my tax returns at my law office in New York or at the
Assembly's office in Washington, DC. I am willing to fill out a
financial disclosure sheet, including a listing of all my assets and
liabilities, as well as those of my family, to establish that no
possible conflicts exist. Those who are busy spreading false rumors to
the contrary should be ashamed of themselves.  In the interests of
healthy debate, it would be valuable if you asked the same of the
chairmen of the policy-making boards of other organizations but I do
not condition my willingness to make these disclosures on their

The Assembly and all of its related organizations are perfectly
transparent in their finances, which are published annually and go
through an independent audit by an outside firm.  The firm's report is
distributed at our annual meeting.  We also publish the names of our
members and the fact that the Assembly members are present in all
fifty states, growing faster than any other similar organization.
Although I am not the Assembly's Conflict of Interest Officer, I am
not presently aware of any other Assembly leader who is in violation
of our Conflict of Interest Policy.

With regard to your first question, the information you have obtained
is wrong. Hirair Hovnanian and I were asked to look at development of
the Trebizond port as part of then-President Ter Petrossian's efforts
to reach out to Turkey.  We met with the Turkish foreign minister and
other government officials, none of whom demanded that in exchange for
access, the "Armenians stop demanding recognition for the Genocide."
As I am sure you know, Armenia has a treaty right to open
communication through Turkey to the Black Sea.  The Trebizond project
can be viewed as a trial balloon. Turkey failed that trial, and in so
doing, President Ter-Petrossian's position was internationally
recognized as reasonable and of long-term benefit to Armenia.

Despite the rhetoric to the contrary, it is worth noting that most of
the countries which have acknowledged the Armenian Genocide since
independence, did so while Levon Ter-Petrossian was president and Alex
Arzoumanian was foreign minister or United Nations ambassador.

I also recognize that the Trebizond project has been the subject of
numerous rumors and innuendo.  The record is clear and Hirair
Hovnanian and I have long since stopped worrying about those who
resort to such smear tactics.

Q:	What do you think about statements that this commission in
general, and the Assembly's presence on it specifically, may divide
the Armenian-American advocacy groups?

VK:	Armenian-Americans are already divided.  But the reaction from
the mainstream members of our community has been overwhelmingly
positive. It is clear that those who are opposed to the Commission
have shown that they are only isolating themselves from the
mainstream.  More significantly, the ANCA began to distance itself
from the mainstream community and the Assembly long before the
Commission was announced.

The Assembly is accused of being evangelical in our zeal to be
inclusive.  But, just as the Assembly refused to be held hostage when
the ARF bolted from the Assembly years ago, we recognize that the
interests of the overwhelming majority of Armenian-Americans cannot be
held hostage to the ARF leadership today.  Our agenda is public and we
continue to welcome cooperation from the ANCA; the choice is theirs to
cooperate or not.

Q:	The ARF is not happy with the creation of this Commission in a
secretive manner and which excludes them.  They've written that
they're concerned with the commission's effects on Armenian national
interests and intra-Diaspora relations, such as the possibility of a
rift in the Armenian advocacy groups in Washington - primarily the
Assembly and the ANCA.  Why wasn't the ANCA invited to join the
Commission also?

VK:	We are not presently aware of anyone within the ARF/ANCA ranks
who can meet the criteria for membership. We are open to discussing
the matter but it is clear that their official reaction confirms the
wisdom of our judgment. The ARF/ANCA is a political party primarily
interested in gaining power in Armenia and we felt that it would
interfere with their designee's ability to act as a team player on the

For example, one of the ARF's immediate and continuing reactions to
the creation of the Commission is to call for the resignation of the
Foreign Minister of Armenia, Vartan Oskanian, and to replace him with
one of their party members. The initial basis for this political
tactic was the false accusation that the Foreign Minister knew about
the Commission prior to the announcement, but that President Robert
Kocharian did not.  When the President's spokesman fairly acknowledged
that, of course, the President knew about the Commission's formation,
the ARF devised new grounds to criticize the Foreign Minister.  The
Armenians on this Commission must be above petty partisan behavior if
this effort is going to have any chance of success.

Second, the ARF leadership was advised of the Commission's formation
before it was officially announced. The ARF leadership was offered the
opportunity to meet in person so that its leadership could react based
on factual information.  Instead, the ARF leadership chose to attack
first and ask questions later, and has yet to accept our offer to
meet. As Alex Arzoumanian said, we are still open to reconciliation
with the ARF but we feel that all Armenians, and certainly this
effort, ought not to be held captive to partisan politics.

Q:	For the record, I have heard from ARF sources that they were
advised of the commission's formation only short hours before it was
announced by the New York Times.

JA:	When the Commission met in Geneva, we did not have agreement
on the Terms of Reference or a public announcement. After negotiating
the final terms, we agreed to wait before making an announcement. If
we had not agreed, the proceedings would have remained confidential in
accordance with our prior agreement. After we agreed, and before we
announced the formation of the Commission, an official telephone call
was placed to the ARF Bureau to alert it to the forthcoming
announcement. The call was returned the following day, and the ARF
representative expressed thanks for the notice. A substantive
discussion took place and tentative dates for a meeting were set.
Regrettably, as stated above, the ARF/ANCA chose a different course
rather than following through with the meeting.

I would also note that this is a very complicated issue. Aside from
the above, there was an ARF Bureau Member who knew about the Vienna
meetings, which preceded the Geneva meetings and announcement. This
individual either did not share the information with his colleagues or
has chosen not to acknowledge it at this time.

Q:	Do you and the Assembly have an "exit strategy" from the
commission, that is, have you defined criteria to measure acceptable
progress and success, or failure of this process, so that you can
evaluate whether to continue or when to quit?  What are these

JA:	The Commission's Terms of Reference anticipate a reevaluation
after one year. We have defined criteria to measure acceptable
progress but at this time will make no public comment on it. We want
to repeat that reconciliation is a process and not an event.  We all
recognize that there are more reasons for this effort to fail than
succeed.  But, we believe in it and we deserve the right to a fair
chance, which is why we are grateful for the individual and
organizational support we have received.

Q:	This Commission is pretty much Track Two diplomacy, searching
for a path to official recognition.  Regarding government involvement
in the work of the Commission, there have been statements admitting
and denying involvement by the governments of Armenian, Turkey, and
the U.S. State Department.  Can you clarify where each came in, how
they facilitated, suggested people, resources and options to the
Commission?  Would you say that their involvement amounts to an
implicit or explicit approval of the process of this commission?  What
does each one want out of it?

JA:	Questions concerning the various governments should be
addressed directly to them. We are grateful for all the support we
have received.  Regarding what each government wants, we expect it is
maximum return with minimum risk - which is why Track Two is what it is.

Q:	Throughout the Clinton Administrations, the U.S. State Department
was tuned to support Jewish claims for reparations from German
industry which used slave labor, from Swiss banks which kept Nazi gold
and other funds stolen from Nazi victims, and to facilitate bringing
to justice war criminals during the Holocaust who resided in Eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union.  Is the State Department
envisioning such a role of support for the Armenian drive to a just
recognition of the Genocide?

VK:	Jewish claims followed after Germany lost World War II and
acknowledged the Holocaust.  Two years ago, the Assembly thought to
try to reverse the Holocaust process, believing that an attempt to
work on the Ottoman bank accounts issue would be a step toward Turkish
acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide.  At that time, the Armenian
National Institute, the Armenian Bar Association and the Assembly
received a commitment from the State Department that it would raise
the bank accounts issue with Turkey. We continue to believe that this
and related issues need to be pursued.

Q:	How do you expect that this dialogue will make Turkish society
more open in general, and better educated about 1915?

ANDRANIK MIGRANIAN:	If we succeed in convincing leading members of
Turkish civil society, all of whom are well connected to  their country's
elite that acceptance of the Armenian Genocide is in Turkey's best
interest, it would be the shortest road to reconciliation of our two
peoples and two countries. Through and with the Turkish Commissioners,
we will have direct access to Turkey's elite and public at large in
order to prepare them for acceptance of the Genocide. If we accomplish
that, I will consider that the Commission has delivered an invaluable
service.  If not, it means that neither the Turkish Government nor its
civil society is ready for that kind of breakthrough at this time. It
would harm Turkey's image on the international stage and support the
notion that the Turkish government and its people are not yet ready to
behave according to the norms of modern, civilized nations.

Q:	Irrespective of the label attached to describe 1915, what is
the Turkish government ready to do, to remedy some of its consequences
(overhaul genocide denial in history curricula, abandoned properties,
architectural monuments), things to which President Kocharian referred
to in his famous interview with CNN-Turk?  What ideas have been

AM:	While I could describe in general what our fellow
Commissioners from Turkey are ready to recommend right now to their
government, we have recently all agreed to refrain from publicly
discussing ideas currently on the table. Their positions may change
during the process, which is new and in its early stages of
development.  Eventually, if we come to mutual understandings, then I
have no doubt that the recommendations of the Turkish members will
provide a basis for future Turkish government policy.

Q:	Mr. Krikorian, You have mentioned talk about a special course
being introduced in Turkish universities on the subject of the Genocide.
Were concrete ideas floated around? Why should the Genocide, this
dark chapter in Turkish history, not be taught earlier in the life of
Turkish students, - Middle school, high school, etc. - and reach
greater numbers, not only those who continue to higher-ed?

VK:	I will refrain from discussing ideas currently on the table.
Regarding Genocide education in Turkish schools, it is clear that the
state policy of denial and its impact on the Turkish education system
has been destructive to the Turkish people. We believe that the more
they know about the Armenian Genocide, including both the stories of
individual Turks who saved Armenians and those which describe the evil
that a government can perpetrate, the better.

Q:	You stated that the Turkish commission members pretty much
agree that there is a three-generation-long nationwide brainwashing on
the genocide issue in Turkey.  However, we've read in many articles,
including from the New York Times, that Turks and Kurds in Turkey know
very well what happened to the Armenians during World War I.  Is the
problem with the Turkish nation, or the Turkish state?

JA:	We believe that the problem with Genocide denial is complex
and does not fit easily within the two alternatives you have
suggested.  Clearly, there is a big difference between knowing what
happened and calling it a "Genocide."  In the past, substituting the
word "massacres" for "Genocide" had been suggested in various
resolutions and decrees, which would have assured easy passage.  In
the U.S., the Assembly rejected those at every turn, even though some
in the community might have been willing to agree.  We anticipate that
a large part of the Commission's work will entail trying to determine
the most effective way of dealing with these issues. However, we have
agreed not to speak for the Turkish Commission members, and want to
respect that.

Q:	What other issues, outside of the Armenian Genocide is on this
commission's agenda?
 * Is a solution to Karabakh discussed?
 * Is a territorial exchange between Armenia and Azerbaijan discussed?
 * Are the new demands imposed by Turkey on Armenia - such as the
    opening of a corridor through Meghri, to link Nakhichevan with
    Azerbaijan, - discussed?
 * Armenian monument preservation and attribution in Turkey?

JA:	Our Terms of Reference are public. Without violating our
commitment not to disclose specific items on the Commission's agenda,
we can state definitively that issues related to Nagorno Karabagh,
territorial exchanges between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the "opening
of a corridor through Meghri" are completely and explicitly outside
the purview of the Commission.  We disagree with those who might try
to link the issues; our Commission has enough to address and a direct
Armenian-Turkish dialogue is long overdue.

Q:	Will the commission have a secretariat? Where will it be

JA:	We thank the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna for structuring this
process.  We did not include plans for a secretariat in our terms of
reference, but we acknowledge the possibility as the process develops.
We have received positive messages encouraging us to open a web site,
and based on the substantial popular support we receive, expect there
will be many more good ideas that we did not have in mind.  We
encourage those as we believe that the Armenian people want progress
and results rather than outdated rhetoric.

Thank you.

			    *  *  *  *  *



Purpose - Because of its public purposes, charitable (educational,
research, etc.) the Armenian Assembly of America, Inc. (the
"Corporation") has a special obligation to uphold the public trust. Each
trustee, director, officer and employee of the Corporation, therefore,
is required to conduct all the affairs of the Corporation in the best
interest of the Corporation, to avoid the appearance of a conflict
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This obligation also requires that the Legal Affairs Committee (the
"Committee") be fully informed regarding transactions and arrangements
into which the Corporation enters and with respect to which directors,
trustees, officers or employees may have an interest.  To ensure
fairness in the Board's decision-making processes and to protect the
Corporation's interests when it is contemplating entering into a
transaction or arrangement that might benefit the private interest of
any of its directors, officers, trustees, agents, consultants and
employees, the Board of Directors (the "Board") has adopted the
following Conflicts of Interest Policy.


	INTERESTED PERSON - Any director, trustee, officer, employee,
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	INTEREST - A person has an Interest if the person or his or
	her family member (including a parent, sibling, spouse or
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* a compensation arrangement or other interest in a transaction with
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			     *  *  *  *  *

			  Terms of Reference


Terms of Reference are agreed to on this 9th day of July 2001 between
Armenians and Turks from civil society who, working in an individual
capacity, agree to establish The Reconciliation Commission.

The Reconciliation Commission grew out of meetings held at the
Diplomatic Academy of Vienna.

The Reconciliation Commission seeks to promote mutual understanding and
good will between Turks and Armenians and to encourage improved
relations between Armenia and Turkey.

The Reconciliation Commission appreciates that there are serious
differences between Armenians and Turks, as well as obstacles to normal
relations between Armenia and Turkey.

The Reconciliation Commission hopes, through its efforts, to build on
the increasing readiness for reconciliation among Turkish and Armenian
civil societies including members of Diaspora communities.

The Reconciliation Commission supports contact, dialogue and cooperation
between Armenian and Turkish civil societies in order to create public
awareness about the need for reconciliation and to derive practical

The Reconciliation Commission will directly undertake activities and
catalyze projects by other organizations.

The Reconciliation Commission will develop recommendations to be
submitted to concerned governments.

The Reconciliation Commission will support collaborative track two
activities in the fields of business, tourism, culture, education and
research, environment, media, confidence building, and other areas which
are to be determined.

The Reconciliation Commission will secure expertise based on project
requirements, and may include specialists on historical, psychological
and legal matters, as well as other topics.

The Reconciliation Commission will review progress after one year.

The Reconciliation Commission is established by:

Gunduz Aktan (Ankara)
Alexander Arzoumanian (Yerevan)
Ustun Erguder (Istanbul)
Sadi Erguvenc (Istanbul)
David Hovhannissian (Yerevan)
Van Z. Krikorian (New York)
Andranik Migranian (Moscow)
Ozdem Sanberk (Istanbul)
Ilter Turkmen (Istanbul)
Vamik D. Volkan (Charlottesville)

 Copyright 2001,  Armenian News Network / Groong

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